I first ran across Bernie Beaudry's name as I looked over a list of donors who had made the most consecutive annual gifts to Saint John's. Bernie had graduated from Saint John's in 1954, and it appeared he had made gifts in support of the Student Fund every year since graduation. Sixty-one years and counting!
A dedicated alumnus like Bernie was someone I had to meet, and so I drove to Ames, IA, to visit with Bernie and his wife Patricia. In true Johnnie fashion, Bernie was hospitable, though he was a little embarrassed by all the attention.
Bernie told me he was raised on a farm near Albertville, MN. He had heard good things about Saint John's from various people in the area, as well as at DeLaSalle in Minneapolis, where he had gone to high school. He then enrolled at Saint John's and grew to really enjoy the place. His was the typical Saint John's experience: he made good friends, and he studied chemistry, math and theology from Benedictine monks who were excellent teachers.
He graduated from Saint John's with a degree in chemistry, and shortly thereafter he was hired as a researcher at Iowa State University. There he continued his education and eventually became a senior metallurgist before retiring after thirty-eight years. All the while he was active in his church and community, and he and his late wife Charlotte raised seven children in Ames.
I asked Bernie why he had made giving to Saint John's such a priority every year, for such a long time. His answer was simple.
"I have a lot of respect for Saint John's and for the abbey, and I know they need the financial support since fewer monks teach now, compared to when I was there. Also, someone once told me that the alumni donor participation rate was an important number when the school would approach foundations and corporations for grants and larger gifts. I knew I would not be making a really large gift anytime soon, so the least I could do was help them get it from someone else! I wanted to do my part as an alumnus."
"I wanted to do my part." It's statements like these and the continued support of alumni like Bernie that make Saint John's an excellent choice for talented and hard-working young men each year. Bernie's annual gift, combined with those of thousands of others, has a significant impact on developing programs and providing the financial aid on which most of these students depend.
It takes a special kind of person to do something every year for sixty-one years. Clearly, Bernie takes his philanthropy seriously, and he knows that his gifts to Saint John's are important. They're part of something bigger than himself. For Bernie, that's more than enough reason for him to continue "doing his part."